Rock of Ages 2 Review – Monty Python’s Rolling Katamari
Developer: ACE Team
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Steam)*
ESRB Rating: E
Release Date: August 28th, 2017
*The PC Version was used to review this game
Thank you, Atlus for providing a review copy!
Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder is the sequel to the cult 2011 indie game “Rock of Ages“. Rock of Ages is a series which takes elements from tower defense games as well as a few queues from the “Katamari” and “Super Monkey Ball” franchises to create something truly unique. Nearly 6 years after the release of the first game, does Rock of Ages 2 truly live up to the title of Bigger and Boulder? Today we take a look.
I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one. In the story, you play as the historical figure Atlus (very cheeky guys) after God pushes him and his boulder friend to earth. He has to prove himself worthy to fight god by defeating characters from various mythologies and time periods in a good old 1v1 rock rolling contest. During the course of the story, you’ll fight sphinxes, dragons, sentient statues, and maybe even some famous painters. The cutscenes before every battle are extremely influenced by Monty Python esque humor and it shows in the writing. It’s very tongue in cheek and doesn’t take itself seriously at all, to its benefit. There isn’t much story to be found but the interactions between the characters make up for any lack of direct plot.
If there’s one thing the game has going for it, it’s definitely the visuals. The jump from Unreal Engine 3 to 4 in between the two games does not go unnoticed. The sheer range of environments the games has in its levels is simply fantastic. The renaissance era character designs and animated cardboard cutouts for the NPCs is humorous and falls in line with the game art style wonderfully. While I had a few performance drops over the course of the game’s single player it was nothing less than a visual pleasure.
Non-seriousness is something I can’t stress enough with this review. The original soundtrack in this game consists of playful, medieval music. The tracks fit the tone and style of the game but have no memorability and at no point during my playthrough was I particularly impressed by any of them. The sound effects are very mediocre, with most noises and alerts being underwhelming and having no sense or urgency which the game desperately needs.
Rock of Ages in a very unique game both in style and gameplay. The gameplay in the main game mode titled “War” consists of 2 stages. The first stage is the planning stage, where you set up your defenses and prepare for your opponent to send his boulder rushing towards you. The second stage is when you take control of your respective boulder and rush towards the enemies castle dodging the obstacles they have laid out for you. There are a ton of boulders to choose from with each having its own pros and cons. The gameplay can be rewarding if you take risks, or devastating if you accidentally get your boulder destroyed and lose a turn. As for the other game modes, there is an obstacle course game mode in which both players roll simultaneously through a pre-filled map in a race to the finish, and a few boss fights which deviate from the core design of the war and obstacle course game modes. The boss fights while looking good visually lack any challenge, impact, or sense of progression once you beat them. The only exception to this is the game’s final boss which is too good to spoil in the review.
Similar to the first game’s length, the story mode took me roughly 5 hours to beat. The level structure is nonlinear and can be completed in almost any order barring a few boss fights with pre-requisites. This was only doing what was required to progress, as every level has two variants that can be beaten for completion progress. On top on the 10+ level story mode, there are online versus modes up to four players which is a nice addition that gives much more replay value as far as content goes. In addition to the online modes, there is a small little time trial mode perfect for speedrunners. For a $15 title, this game gives more than enough incentive to keep playing after you beat the main story.
Rock of Ages 2 improves on the first game in almost every way. Aside from mostly lackluster boss fights, and a sound design experience that doesn’t have any impact or memorability, the sequel does what every sequel should do by raising the bar on what mechanics already exist instead of trying to make a flurry of new ones nobody asked for. For a small team indie game, you can’t ask for much more than that.